Why is it that everyone wants me to advertise for them for free, particularly when it is related to sports? At almost every baseball game attend, I can receive “free” gifts. Last year, in return for buying a ticket to one particular game, I received a bucket hat with my team’s logo. Just several hours ago, my “free” gift was a “bobble-head” figure of one of the top players on the team. Throughout the game, ambassadors and mascots use air cannons to launch “free” tee-shirts to fans in the stadium.
On the bucket hat, just as large as the team logo is the logo for Gulf. The bobble-head figure — which was broken when I took it out of the box, by the way — has a plaque reading AIG, bigger than the player’s name. The free tee-shirts are sponsored by Pepsi (the only drink brand allowed in the stadium, by the way), and would undoubtedly be emblazoned with that company’s logo.
Many years ago, I decided I would not wear any item that had a company’s name or logo plainly visible to other people. This probably came as a result of seeing one to many GAP sweatshirts. I certainly wasn’t going to pay to provide some company with free advertising by buying clothing emblazoned with a logo or brand, no matter how “cool” I would be if I did thanks to the positive image of the brand being associated with the wearer. (I would, however, consider wearing clothing with brands if it would be considered ironic or obscure, which just shows that I’m not immune to marketing anyway.)
This holds true for sports brands as well. While I’m a fan of the Mets, I generally don’t advertise for that particular company’s brand by wearing logo-emblazoned clothing unless I’m going to a baseball game where it’s expected. I don’t see much difference between sports brands and product brands. It’s still free advertising.
Corporate sponsorships allow things to get done, though. Without the money from Citi, the Mets wouldn’t have a new stadium next year. (Who decided the team needs a new stadium, anyway, especially one with fewer seats and — wait for it — more options for corporate ticket owners and fewer for everyday fans?) It makes sense from a company’s perspective to allow sponsorship (which explains why I accept advertising on websites, for instance), but I try to avoid being an unpaid part of that sponsorship as much as possible.
I’ll likely remove the AIG plaque from the bobble-head figure and, if I decide to ever wear that bucket hat to a game, I will cover up the unfavorable logo with something.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 11, 2008.